Blog: We must ensure the clapping is a catalyst for change

Tonight is the ninth ‘clap for key workers’, and I’ll be out clapping again for all the brilliant UNISON members on the frontline during this pandemic.

Clapping only gets us so far though. We must continue to lobby the government, negotiate with employers and ensure that the clapping is a catalyst for change.

Today, we issued a press release about GFM. GFM employs over 400 cleaners, porters, facilities and catering staff across the country, around 60 of them are based in Bodmin, Cornwall. These staff work on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic and are the faces you’re most likely to see around a hospital. Yet, if they’re required to self-isolate they’ll receive less than £100 per week.

The new BBC tool ‘how exposed is your job?’ got me thinking about statutory sick pay this week. Almost all the jobs deemed to have a high exposure to coronavirus are healthcare professions and those in precarious employment with poor terms and conditions.

Earlier this week we also heard how COVID-19 deaths in care homes had exceeded deaths in hospitals in four counties in the South West and the weekly increase in coronavirus deaths in care homes was higher than hospitals for the third week running. However, many staff are still experiencing issues obtaining personal protective equipment, accessing testing and experiencing punishing sick pay policies.

Things can, and will change. This month we launched our Care Workers Safety Charter which sets out six standards that we want care homes to commit to. The charter is an opportunity to protect the welfare of those on the frontline of the Coronavirus and I’m pleased to say that we’re announcing the first care company who has met some of these standards tomorrow.

It is right that people clap, it is right that the key workers are recognised, but it is also right that they deserve better pay, better conditions and better employers.